WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 29, 2023) – Today, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in two affirmative action cases: Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. University of North Carolina (UNC) and SFFA v. Harvard College. The 6-3 decision in SFFA v. UNC—in which the North Carolina Justice Center, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Relman Colfax PLLC served as co-counsel for a diverse group of students who intervened in the case—held that both UNC’s and Harvard’s admissions programs violate the Equal Protection Clause.
The impact of the SFFA v. UNC decision will require an overhaul of UNC’s admissions program. However, students will continue to be permitted to discuss their individual experiences of how race impacts their lives in their applications.
“The decision today is deeply disappointing,” said Sarah Laws, Leslie J. Winner Public Interest and Civil Rights Fellow at the North Carolina Justice Center. “The use of race as just one of over forty carefully considered factors was crucial to UNC’s continued pursuit of the educational benefits of racial and ethnic diversity. UNC’s history of racial subjugation continues to impact students’ experiences, and this decision hurts efforts to create an inclusive and supportive environment for all students.”
While the ruling strikes down race-conscious admissions programs, it applies only to admissions and does not impact other university activities, such as support for student affinity groups, anti-bias training for students and faculty, and other critical on-campus supports.
“The discussion about race and education equity in North Carolina will continue,” said North Carolina Justice Center Executive Director Reggie Shuford. “The NC Justice Center remains deeply committed to ensuring that every North Carolinian receives a fair and equitable education from early childhood onward.”
“Our organization will redouble our efforts advocating for equitable educational opportunities in this state and for educational institutions to take all necessary actions to achieve that result within the constraints of the law. ”
The North Carolina Justice Center and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a merits brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in July 2022 on behalf of a diverse group of student-intervenors. The brief reiterated the critical role that race-conscious admissions play in achieving the educational benefits of on-campus diversity. It urged the Court to uphold UNC’s holistic admissions policy and was supported by many amicus briefs submitted by groups representing a variety of sectors and stakeholders.